Scotland’s island communities will have greater control over their local economies, natural environment and be represented at the heart of government in an independent Scotland, First Minister Alex Salmond said today.
Launching the island prospectus, Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities, in Kirkwall, the First Minister outlined the most comprehensive package of powers for the island communities and highlighted the benefits independence will bring.
In the prospectus, the Scottish Government has committed to implement a range of proposals, including:
*To bring forward a Bill for an Islands Act upon independence to place a duty on the Scottish Government and other public bodies to ‘island-proof’ their functions and decisions, and create a post of ‘Minister for Island Communities’
*To extend to 2020 the duration of the Enterprise Areas at Arnish, Lyness and Hatston, and support the establishment of Island Innovation Zones, to help sustain job opportunities
*To allocate, upon Independence, 100 per cent of the net income from the islands’ sea bed leasing revenues to island communities rather than to central government
*To ensure Islands Councils’ representation on a new strategic energy committee upon independence, and explore ways to mitigate any adverse community impacts from oil and gas activities consistent with our commitments made to the industry in Scotland’s Future
*To develop a ‘planning brief’ approach for aquaculture to underpin further development and growth of the sector, and develop a ‘Community Benefit Charter’ with the Islands Councils, the aquaculture industry and those involved in the regulatory framework
*To ensure the special needs of island communities have a stronger voice and representation in Europe
These proposals will complement the range of recent measures already being implemented by the Scottish Government, including:
*Additional top-up to island beef producers leading to an uplift of around €65 per calf under the Beef Voluntary Coupled Support (VCS) Scheme
*Delegation of statutory regional marine planning for the Island areas (to 12 nautical miles) to local Marine Planning Partnerships, with the Islands Councils playing a lead role
*Securing Islands council representation on committees to ensure voice in the Scotland Rural Development Programme
Speaking from Orkney College, the First Minister said:
”Today’s prospectus is the most comprehensive package for empowering Scotland’s island communities that has been put forward by any Government. It recognises the unique contribution that island communities make to modern Scotland, and also the distinctive needs and priorities they have.
”Most of all, though, it recognises that Scotland’s islands have huge potential – a wealth of culture and history; stunning landscapes; massive renewable energy resources; and a host of successful businesses in sectors such as food and drink, life sciences and tourism.
“We are determined to work with the islands communities to unleash that potential and to create a sustainable and prosperous future. By doing so, we will honour the principles of subsidiarity and local decision-making at the heart of the Lerwick Declaration. And even more importantly, we will help to build wealthier and fairer island communities, as part of a wealthier and fairer Scotland.”